Lawmakers, officials criticize Oklahoma unemployment vendor
Mike Seals - October 21, 2020 10:25 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma lawmakers and other officials criticized the vendor that the state hired to deliver unemployment benefits to claimants, taking issue with how the company has distributed payments during the pandemic.
Conduent — the company the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission made a contract with to deliver unemployment benefits — received criticisms during an interim study Tuesday. The critiques included holds put on claims, benefit cards being delivered with no funds and charging clients 25 cents for calls after they had exhausted their five monthly free calls to check balances.
The company was also criticized for not cooperating with state officials who had requested information regarding why some claims had holds on them despite the state already approving them, according to Tulsa World.
Paul Gates, a Conduent general manager for state and federal government business, said the company has asked the OESC for a subpoena due to privacy concerns and to provide the data used to determine when a hold was put on a claim.
“It is our request for a subpoena to allow us to give the information and protect us from claims that we violated individuals’ privacy,” Gates said.
Jason Boswell, senior director for government payments for Conduent said there is no policy in place to notify OESC when the company puts a hold on a claim.
Shelley Zumwalt, OESC director, said her agency is not requesting transaction-level data, simply seeking information as to why Conduent took certain action to limit fraud.
Gates said the pandemic created challenges that led to such issues and delays but that the company is now recovering after hiring additional bodies and allowing employees to work from home.
Sen. James Leewright suggested the state should look for other companies if Conduent does not improve their services. But Zumwalt said the answer is not to eliminate the contract right now as it would result in disruptions to the agency.